The campsites of Benidorm - and there are many, have reported a record occupancy for July, with an increase of 6.7% on last year. Figures quoted reveal that nearly 74% of pitches were occupied, with Brits the biggest users and August is looking even busier. Some arrive with their own vehicles, on holiday while others have decided to up sticks and make the move, testing the waters first. The great thing about Benidorm is that there is something to suit all budgets and tastes, not only for holidaymakers, but also those choosing to move here permanently. Yet with property prices still very reasonable here - and with the current strong exchange rate properties seem even more affordable and an abundance of rentals, it is surprising how many ex-pats opt for life on a campsite.
The biggest and most popular in Benidorm is Villamar, followed by El Raco. Now I openly admit that I did have preconceived ideas of what to expect as I was invited on a tour, like I am sure many others have - last chance saloon types scrapping by on their last euros on a hi-di-hi type site. As Jim Trott from the Vicar of Dibley use to say, no no no, no - but in this case there is no yes at the end! Over the last few month Channel 5 have been filming at Villamar and featured a number of residents for a documentary about Brits who have made the move to the sun. Lesley Taylor, the resident Aqua Aeorobics instructor had the camera crew follow her at the beginning of June, filming her taking a class.
Villamar is Benidorm´s biggest campsite
Villamar Camping is like a stand alone village, absolutely beautiful with tree lined streets, immaculately clean and secure but I still couldn´t understand why - especially as rent on what I would consider a "proper house" ie bricks and mortar would in many cases be cheaper! Well I was about to find out as I was welcomed to Sue and Pete´s for a glass of something pink and bubbly, drunk - well by the time I left I almost was - from proper champagne flutes, not paper cups and home made scones with jam... my prejudged thoughts were quickly fading.
Villamar is considered the créme de la créme of the many sites in the area - it is certainly big, with 1150 pitches. Opened in 2002 it is managed by Mr De Groot, who is the Director and he runs it with military precision, which if that were not the case it wouldn´t be the place which it is. Each pitch is 9 mt x 9mt, with a few of the corner plots slightly bigger and there are strict rules as to what can and cannot be put up. Most have awnings attached to their caravans giving them around 50 sq mts of living space and many of the residents have paved the ground on their pitches, which is where they spend most of their time - outside.
Fun in the Benidorm sun!
As we sat chatting a constant stream of people walked by, waving and saying hello and it quickly began to fall into place that people actually choose to live here primarily for the social lifestyle. We were soon joined by Pat and Barrie and next door neighbours Pat and Cliff - all three couples have property back in the UK and they told me that many which lived here were rather wealthy property landlords back in Blighty, with several properties - certainly a far cry from the stereotypical image I had of campers.
As I made my way to Sue and Pete´s there was certainly no shortage of 4x4´s and large mercedes with private plates on the site.
They were all united as to why they lived on Villamar, despite the fact that they could all afford to live in an apartment or villa if they wanted - the social environment and lifestyle. If you are not a sociable person then this most definitely isn´t a place for you.
Campsites are a lifestyle choice
Everyone is always popping by into each others and stopping to chat, something which has all but vanished on most streets. I bet many don´t even know who their neighbours are or their names - on a campsite everyone knows their neighbours and probably their business too. That is probably the only downside apparently - you cannot have an argument or be too vocal when in the throes of passion so to speak as everyone will know!
Virtually every week someone is throwing a party and all the neighbours get invited - in fact, Pat and Cliff were waiting for 17 friends from Wales to arrive for whom they were holding a street party. Helen, a single lady who lived opposite joined us and has lived in both a "conventional" apartment in Albir and is now happily on Villamar. She explained that when she was in her apartment she would close the door and not hear or speak to anyone for the rest of the day - it was a very lonely and solitary period of her life here. Since moving she is far happier and would never consider moving back into an apartment or villa - and it´s a similar story on the other campsite such as El Raco.
Exceptional facilities at Villamar
The facilities offered on this particular site are exceptional - centrally located is the bar/restaurant complex with shop and beauty salon and beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding the outdoor pool, complete with waterfall! The excellent 24 hour security with cameras keeps out unwanted guests and there is always someone on duty in the office. Most hotels in Benidorm would be envious and could never compete with what is offered here! There is a "curfew" so to speak on vehicles at midnight - none can enter the site after this time, which is a good thing otherwise cars would be driving up and down waking people up with their headlights etc - obviously a drawback if you are having a late night out yourself but it certainly doesn´t put people off going out though.
So to summarise, the camaraderie is what attracts the residents to live on a campsite. 85% on Villamar are British ex-pats who return back to their homes in the UK during the hot Spanish summer months. It´s a lifestyle choice that suits many and a great way to meet people if you are new here.